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'You can mess up on any night'

Rohini Kejriwal, Nov 5, 2013, DHNS: 18:50 IST
frank Russell Peters
There’s little known about Russell Peters beyond his stage act. Observational humour in the form of raunchy racial, ethnic and cultural stereotypes is what he projects. But the Canada-based comedian has more to him than his own style of ‘brown humour’. For starters, he likes to DJ on his own when he gets the time.

Having been in this profession for 24 years, Russell claims that he can’t switch
off the constant jokes. “When I see something funny, I’m not going to not say something funny. On stage, I’m like an amplified version of myself. The use of stereotypes is my style of comedy. Some guys do political comedy. I talk about what I know,” he tells Metrolife during the Bangalore leg of his ‘Notorious World Tour’.

On the challenges he faces, Russell says, “You have to write all the time. It’s a double-edged sword – it’s a challenge but it’s also what makes it exciting. Also, in comedy, you’re never above anything. You can mess up on any night and that’s what makes it so daring. It doesn’t matter who you are but you always have the opportunity to fail.”

What is also admirable is how he stays true to originality. “You never look up others’ routines. The minute you start copying somebody else, you’re not being yourself anymore. You’ve lost your point of view then,” says Russell, who does not see other
comedians as competition. “There’s no above or below anybody in this game. You might be more successful than somebody else but it doesn’t mean you’re better than them. There are guys who are not successful who are way funnier than I’ll ever be. But for whatever reason, it didn’t click for them,” he adds.

Stand-up comedy, he feels, has quite a bright future ahead. He elaborates, “It’s not going anywhere because it’s social commentary. The bad stuff will always go away. It’s the same with music – we live in a time when music is crap but it can’t stay terrible forever!”

Asked whether he’s ever tried the comedian’s trick of imagining the audience in their underpants to feel less nervous, he replies, “I’ve never done that in my life. I do it with chicks sometimes and picture them naked. But that’s only my own deviant mind.” Putting on a serious face, he adds that the best perks of his job are ‘money, fame and chicks’.

His playful naughtiness that comes across in his jokes may lead one to imagine him to be a pervert. But he laughs and dismisses this. “It’s obviously not who I am off-stage. How I see it is that I can’t say certain things in real life but I can on stage. I have my own degenerate behaviour but I’m not forward like that as a person. I won’t walk up to a girl that I don’t know and start talking to her,” confesses Russell. “I was never able to do that and I still can’t. If I sense that she may know who I am, I’ll say something witty to see if she gets it. But it won’t be like a pick-up line,” he wraps up.

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